I’ve never been one that lived for Star Wars movies, but I’m not a cynic either, so yes I did like the newest one. Star Wars: The Force Awakens shows that once Hollywood found someone (that would be J.J. Abrams) who had the talent to make a new entry in the spirit of the ones that began in 1977, then quality escapism with this series could happen again. It still has too many scenes that make it as a whole clunky, and there isn’t one showstopper that elevates the best of the original three movies. But it has a polished retro look without all that George Lucas’ CGI digital clutter and patchy dialogue that marred the 1999-2005 prequels.
With Old-timers Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher relevantly returned, they are joined by newbies Daisy Ridley, Oscar Isaac, Adam Driver and Domhnall Gleeson. This is a good cast, but John Boyega will probably go underappreciated with the essential warmth he brings to this production – Boyega’s Finn is a storm trooper who turns to the good side. I wish we got a little more inside his crisis of conscience, luckily his nuances tell more than the script does. We’re supposed to be alarmed by Ridley’s backstory as Rae, who has a family back on planet Jakku, but we’re not keyed into any of her family specifics.
You wish those details were better, but after awhile, um… I guess it’s no matter. I loved the Millennium Falcon hijacking scene, the BB-8 droid is a nifty improvement on R2D2, and the loose talk about the Force is mythology nirvana.
If “The Force Awakens” is one of the year’s stand out splashy entertainments. I do hope, however, that one day we get The George Lucas Story which could be the best film of the year. First he sold the rights to “Star Wars” because he couldn’t deal with carping fans. Now he’s blasted this latest entry and said it’s made by a bunch of “white slavers.” What does that even mean? He has long declared an interest in making experimental film, but where are his results? What I think it means is that Lucas is the Steve Jobs of the movie world.
From time to time, I can sound like an old fogey. When I’m in one of those moods, I have been found saying Lucas pretty much ruined movies with the success of his 1977 original. In ensuing decades audiences stopped caring about small-scale human stories and wanted nothing but a thousand “Star Wars” clones. Movies haven’t needed to be set in outer space in order for them to be one of those clones, the similarities exist in their whiplash action formulas, in their blast it up every second scene mentality. But I do know a good version of the action swashbuckler when I see one, and “The Force Awakens” has a fanciful imagination, one that Lucas spats at. What is it that you do want, Mr. Lucas?
I haven’t been a J.J. Abrams fan either up to this point, but he has done a remarkable job, one that I’d even qualify – no, I can’t do it. I can’t say classical job because while the film starts clean, it balloons into grandiosity. For example (SPOILER ALERT), Abrams dreams up a scenario that has the Resistance blow-up another, bigger, badder Death Star-type space station. And yet Abrams, nor his writers, don’t give us a coherent strategy to blow it up, really. I challenge any audience member to say that they understood the Plan. In 1983’s “Return of the Jedi,” for instance, there is a visually pure objective to blow up the main reactor. Abrams also thinks he needs to dream up insuperable villains. However, I could have done without the Supreme Being as some kind of Gollum specter. The light-saber duel in the forest didn’t wow me either, it’s an overblown mess of a scene.
Really, overall, it’s hard to deny I got a kick out of this Force Be With You adventure, and the cast of heroes is golden.
135 Minutes. Rated PG-13.
SCI-FI & FANTASY / ACTION FANS / BLOCKBUSTER WEEKEND CROWDS
Film Cousins: “Star Wars” (1977); “The Empire Strikes Back” (1980); “Return of the Jedi” (1983); “Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith” (2005).